As more research is emerging about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in development, a group of prominent Black doctors is encouraging Black Americans to take the vaccine when it becomes available, reports NBC News.
“We ask you to join us in participating in clinical trials and taking a vaccine once it’s proven safe and effective,” the doctors wrote in an open letter. “We know that our collective role in helping to create a vaccine that works for Black people—and that we trust—has an impact on our very survival.”
The first three vaccines have demonstrated good efficacy in late-stage clinical trials, reducing the risk of symptomatic COVID-19 by 90% or more, according to interim data released by the vaccine manufacturers. The Food and Drug Administration will meet soon to consider emergency use authorization, and vaccines could be available by the end of the year. Health care workers will be vaccinated first, followed by other essential workers and people at higher risk for severe COVID-19, including seniors and those with underlying health conditions.
Despite being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, an August poll by Axios/Ipsos found that 50% of Black people were unlikely to get vaccinated. Furthermore, 72% of Black respondents said they wouldn’t take a first-generation COVID-19 vaccine once it was available.
Many African Americans are skeptical of the medical field and the government because of previous unethical research, including the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which examined the effects of untreated syphilis among Black men who had not provided informed consent to participate in the study and denied them treatment for infection when it became available. Another notorious, medically unethical incident involved Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman with cancer whose cells were taken for experimentation without her knowledge as the cancer progressed.
The doctors, who collectively represent the National Medical Association, the National Black Nurses Associations, Howard University and the Black Coalition Against COVID, among other institutions and groups, stressed that respect for Black bodies and lives must be a core value for those working to find a vaccine for COVID-19.
“We affirm that Black Lives Matter,” wrote the group. “We love you. And as Black health professionals, we have a higher calling to stand for racial justice and to fight for health equity.”
Until vaccines become widely available, the doctors urged Black Americans to wear masks, continue social distancing, practice good hygiene and avoid indoor events.
For related coverage, read “Black Doctors Work to Make Coronavirus Testing More Equitable” and “Black Doctors Create a COVID-19 Vaccine Assessment Task Force.”